• Outdoor Learning

Outdoor Learning

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Outdoor learning is challenging, fun, healthy and integral to life at Charlton Manor. We believe that every child should experience the outdoors as part of their education, wellbeing and personal development. As pupils move through the school, they have numerous opportunities to take their learning outdoors. Connecting children to nature and giving our pupils opportunities to learn in, from and with the natural world is at the heart of everything we do. Our high-quality outdoor learning experiences:

  • develop reflective and inquisitive thinking along with problem-solving approaches in ‘real’ situations
  • encourage holistic development of children
  • develop resilience and adaptability in adverse circumstances
  • allow our children to become more able to identify hazards and risks
  • develop a love, appreciation and respect for nature and all that is living
  • develop an understanding of how we can look after our environment
  • develop self-awareness, confidence and self-esteem
  • develop collaborative-working and communication skills
  • provide positive health benefits – both physically and mentally – and assist gross and fine-motor development
  • develop a lifelong love of the outdoors

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Wander down beside the school dining centre and through the large, ornate iron gates and you will discover an amazing area of Charlton Manor - Our Secret Garden - which is the heart of school life. It fulfils a multitude of roles providing an outdoor learning resource, a place for quiet contemplation, a play area, an area to produce food, a haven for wildlife, and a focus for pride at what has been achieved over the years.

From its inception in 2005, pupils have been at the heart of the garden project. Working with landscape architects they drew up their wish list and saw their ideas develop from a derelict, overgrown area into a workable design and fully functional garden that includes a wildlife pond area, bird hide with cameras, heated greenhouse, teaching and seating areas, raised beds, fruit, herb and vegetable growing areas, composting facilities, bees and chickens.

All pupils play a key role in developing and maintaining Our Secret Garden, alongside the school gardener, in daily, lunch time gardening sessions, after school gardening clubs and during class time. Many pupils do not have access to a garden at home so this provides them with that outdoor opportunity and for everyone to get their hands dirty, to grow their own and understand where food comes from.

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Over the last few years Our Secret Garden has continually evolved to enrich teaching and learning at the school including participation in RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Capel Manor Gardens Show, Bexley in Bloom plus Coolings Centenary Horticultural Show and Capital Growth Harvest-ometer Challenge. Our chickens keep us all busy and give the pupils opportunity to collect and eat fresh eggs whilst our observation bee hive allows the pupils to see the bees at work in the hive. This gives them real insight into the vital role that bees have to play in pollination and the pupils take an active role in looking after the bees. Charlton Manor honey is areal bonus for all our pupils, staff and parents.

Charlton Manor pupils travelled to Germany in 2014 to assist in the planning and development of a new school garden at Mittelschule Schelitz, Bavaria.

Looking ahead, we’re always hoping for a bumper crop of fruit and vegetables which are cooked and consumed in our dining centre kitchen, cooking lessons in our fully functional teaching kitchen and for produce sales in our ‘Sweet Pickings’ shop.

At Charlton Manor we are passionate about all things gardening, involving all pupils in this essential outdoor classroom environment and especially Our Secret Garden.

Secret Garden Harvest

Secret Garden Harvest

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Using the Capital Growth Harvest-ometer we have logged everything we have harvested this Summer from our Secret Garden and our allotment at Woodlands Farm. We have harvested over £1400 worth of food, just over an amazing 200kg in weight! We have also contributed over 2800 meals to the Growing a Million Meals for London Campaign. Click on the image to see what we have harvested this summer!

Gardening Awards

Gardening Awards

Gardening Awards

Green Flag Award

The Secret Garden at Charlton Manor Primary School is named as one of the best in Britain. Keep Britain Tidy announces a record-breaking number of award-winning parks and green spaces for 2016/2017.

The Secret Garden is one of the very best school gardens in the UK – and that’s official. The green space is among a record-breaking number of parks and green spaces that have received a prestigious Green Flag Award.

The award, handed out by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. A Green Flag flying overhead is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent facilities.

We are absolutely delighted to receive a Green Flag Award for the third time from Keep Britain Tidy.

This Award recognises and highlights that pupils from Charlton Manor and the local community are benefitting from a green space of the very highest quality.

Keep Britain Tidy’s Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said “We are delighted to announce yet another record-breaking year for Green Flag Award parks and green spaces. “A Green Flag Award provides national recognition for all the parks managers, staff and volunteers who, through their dedication and hard work, have helped to create these fantastic places for everyone to enjoy”.

“Quality green spaces are a vital resource for communities and that is why it is so significant that we have given out more awards than ever before”.


RHS Chelsea Flower Show
May 2016
Awarded: Silver Gilt Medal for the Miracle-Growers Urban School Garden
Bexley in Bloom
June 2016
Awarded: Gold – 2nd Place Best School Garden
Awarded: Silver Gilt Best School Vegetable Plot
Capital Growth
July 2016
Awarded: Biggest Range of Produce Grown - Harvest-ometer Challenge 2015/2016

Forest School

Forest School

At the Charlton Manor Forest School, we adopt a child-centred approach that offers the children the opportunity to be independent, to connect with nature, to develop their creativity in the outdoor environment and to take supported risks (eg climbing the trees. Each session offers a unique combination of exploration, outdoor education and environmental education, which is what makes it so special. The children develop their communication, collaborative and problem-solving skills as well as resilience through hands-on experiences. Our Forest School is led and managed by one of our Early Years Practitioners, Ms. Noble.

Forest Schools have been an important part of Early Years Education in Denmark since the 1980’s. British Forest Schools have been developed and adapted from the original concept implemented in Sweden in the 1950’s and developed throughout other Scandinavian and European Countries. The Forest Schools concept established in Denmark for pre-school children (under seven years) in the 1980’s stemmed from their Early Years Education and, in the mid 1990’s was visited by nursery nurses from Somerset and independently by representatives from other early year’s professionals.

The philosophy of Forest School is based on a desire to provide young children with an education which encourages an appreciation of the wide natural world. Using the outdoor environment, children are encouraged and inspired to grow in confidence, independence and self-esteem through small achievable tasks. Studies have shown that children attending the forest school perform markedly better at concentrating than other who don’t. It appears that the principle reason was due to the greater range of opportunities present for play in nature, children played for longer at a time, with less annoyance or interruption of each other compared to the children in the city kindergarten. The studies observed that when children in mainstream nurseries were interrupted, they became irritable, their stress levels rose significantly, and their ability to concentrate fell. When they could not concentrate there was a clear tendency to selfish and inconsiderate behaviour and aggression. The forest school children were much more considerate towards each other.

The studies also showed that the forest school children had 25% fewer sick days compared to other children. One reason for this is that the air is nearly always better outside than indoors because outside a child is less likely to be exposed to virus and bacteria and not so likely to be infected by other children. Another reason may be that, since stress has been shown to have a negative effect on the immune system, high stress levels may be having a weakening effect on the ability for the mainstream children to resist infection. The forest school children, on the other hand, are in a pleasant, natural, fun and less stressful environment. As a consequence of this, children attending Forest School kindergartens were arriving at school with stronger social skills, greater ability to work in groups, and generally, children had high self-esteem and confidence in their own capabilities.

All these attributes proved to be an effective foundation that raised academic achievements. Since its introduction Forest Schools has developed opportunities in an outdoor setting for children and adults of all ages to develop a variety of life skills: altruism, independence, self-awareness and social communication skills, all of which assist individuals to grow in self-esteem and confidence. Participants gain confidence in their own ability. Kinaesthetic learners [learning by doing] are particularly suited to learning in this woodland outdoor environment. Forest Schools allows children space and time to explore, experiment and learn at their own pace. Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception).

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